Most of us humans enjoy a variety of foods in our diet. We like different types of food, flavors, and consistencies, and if we ate the same thing every day, we’d get bored of it. But is the same true for dogs? Given a choice, would dogs prefer more variety than the same kibble or wet food over and over? In this post we answer the question, do dogs get bored of their food?
Can dogs get bored of kibble or wet food?
While we can’t know exactly what a dog is thinking, it certainly seems as though dogs can get bored of their kibble or wet food. Anecdotally, my dogs do appear to get somewhat bored of their kibble. When it’s the same exact bag of kibble, meal after meal, they start to eat it with less enthusiasm.
When a new bag is opened, it’s exciting again! Now, I don’t know if this is because it tastes different – it’s often the same formula as the previous bag – or if it’s because they see the new bag brought in and opened and are excited about the prospect of something different.
They do seem to have preferences for “different” though, especially if it’s been a while since they’ve had something else. I know I’m not alone in my observations of this with my dogs, either.
It’s likely they aren’t as bored of their food as easily as humans, though. While humans have around 9000 taste buds, dogs have closer to 1700. So if we ate some dog food (eww), the taste would be far stronger in flavor than for our dogs.
Dogs use their smell more for eating than their taste buds, and it no doubt plays an important role in whether a dog gets bored of their kibble or wet food.
As found in our article Do Dogs Like the Taste of Kibble? we discuss how the meatier the smell of the food is, the more they want to eat it.
In most cases, dogs carefully smell and inspect something before deciding to eat it. Once decided, they eat it with a big gulp!
Most people, though, tend to eat the food and process the taste while it’s in our mouths. Our nose is connected in such a way that smells can then be processed from inside our mouths at the back.
Thus, dogs sniff their food and then make a decision to eat it or not, rather than a human tasting food and then using their sense of smell to decide if they actually enjoy it or not.
So it’s a reasonable conclusion to say that if your dog still likes the smell of their kibble or wet food, they will still eat it and enjoy it.
Does that mean that they won’t get bored of the same smelling dog food? No. Once your dog has lost their eagerness to dive into their food bowl, it’s a good idea to change it up for a new smell.
Why is my dog not eating their food anymore?
If your dog has suddenly stopped eating their kibble or wet food, it might be because they are bored of the food, or it might be for another reason entirely.
Some dogs might turn their nose up at food that has spoiled, and others lose their appetite as the first sign of illness.
If your dog is not eating their food anymore, it’s best to first assume a potential problem with the food or with your dog themselves – and not because they’re suddenly bored of their food.
After checking the food to ensure it doesn’t smell rancid and is free of mold and pests, it’s time to schedule a trip to the veterinarian.
There are many medical reasons why your dog may stop eating their food. Loss of appetite is as prevalent and generic a symptom of a health concern with dogs as is a runny nose with a human.
If your dog’s loss of appetite persists, your veterinarian will be able to take a look at your dog’s physical condition, including any tests that may assist them with ruling out a possible diagnosis.
Because loss of appetite is much more common in dogs that are ill than in the case of dogs that are bored of their food, it’s important to rule out medical concerns before switching up your dog’s food.
If your puppy isn’t eating their kibble, be sure to read our post Puppy Won’t Eat Kibble? Do This!
What do you do when your dog is bored of food?
If you’ve ruled out medical problems and it appears your dog is truly bored of their food, you have a few options. The two most common options are to switch your dog’s food or to take advantage of a process called contrafreeloading (it’s a long word!).
Switch Your Dog’s Food
Switching your dog’s food can be an easy option, especially if they have never enjoyed their current food very much. Dogs can have preferences on their food, just like people. The meatier the smell, the more likely your dog will enjoy it.
Most dogs should be switched to a new food gradually, to avoid an upset stomach. Some dogs may handle a sudden transition to new food just fine, but you, unfortunately, won’t know until after the fact if your dog needs a slow transition or not.
Suddenly switching without any transition can give your dog a terrible GI upset and make them feel quite sick until they’ve adjusted. Thus, it’s best to use a gradual transition unless you are willing to handle the upset stomach and potential vet bills.
Here is a chart for changing their food over:
The other option is to familiarize yourself with contrafreeloading, or the phenomenon where a dog will choose to work for their food (such as in a food puzzle) rather than eat the boring bowl of food that’s available.
Sometimes it’s not the food itself that dogs are bored of – it’s how they’re being fed.
You can try hiding your dog’s food around the house, putting it in a food puzzle such as our Hide’n’Treat puzzle toy, or even freezing it in a Kong or Toppl for a longer-lasting meal that doubles as a cool treat.
You might just find that your dog isn’t bored of their food. Your dog is just plain bored.
I keep a collection of enrichment toys for my dogs, in addition to using fun games from things I have around the house. Sometimes my dogs get their food in a puzzle toy, other times they get their food in a box they must shred.
Sometimes they still get meals in a boring bowl, of course. I might not have the time to fill a food puzzle before I head out the door for an early morning event.
I also don’t want them to ALWAYS have to work for their food, especially if the puzzle has the potential to be frustrating.
So, before you toss the bag of food your dog stopped eating to entice them with new flavors, consider giving them their food in a way that encourages them to use their natural instincts of sniffing and foraging.
You may also be interested in reading Do Dogs Like the Taste of Kibble?
Or maybe Can Kibble be Used as Treats? (Dog trainer answers)
Dog suddenly dislikes their food
Most dogs will not suddenly dislike their food. In cases where a dog has suddenly stopped eating, it’s often a sign of a problem with the food itself or a medical concern for the dog.
If your dog has suddenly stopped eating their food, you should first check if the food has spoiled or become infested with pests.
If the food itself is not expired and seems OK, then it’s time to visit the vet. Sudden loss of appetite is a symptom that warrants a medical exam to determine any health problems that may be affecting your dog’s behavior.
Can dogs live without kibble?
Dogs can live without kibble. There are many examples around the world of wild domestic dogs that are scavengers and live off of a variety of scraps they find.
However, kibble is an easy way to ensure your dog has adequate nutrition. While it might be possible for a dog to survive as a scavenger, it doesn’t mean it’s the ideal way to keep them healthy.
Other possibilities for feeding dogs include feeding a home-cooked diet, a raw diet, a fresh but premade pet food, freeze-dried food, and more.
There are a variety of concerns that many veterinarians and other pet professionals have with these various options, though. Diets that are homemade – whether cooked or raw – can be unbalanced and lacking in proper nutrition.
Fresh food, whether premade and packaged raw or DIY raw, can also be more likely to have bacteria or parasites at a level that can be detrimental to a dog’s health.
If you decide not to feed your dog kibble, and especially if you want to prepare their food yourself, it’s imperative you discuss your plan with a veterinary nutritionist. These professionals are the experts of dog food and can ensure you give your dog the nutrients they need to thrive.
Have you read our post Soaking Puppy Kibble: How, Why, and When to Stop